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O’Donnell School of Public Health researchers use AI to seek new lung cancer treatments

Combining artificial intelligence with traditional analysis holds potential for personalizing patient care

UT Southwestern researchers (from left) Justin A. Bishop, M.D.; Shidan Wang, Ph.D.; Yang Xie, Ph.D.; and Guanghua "Andy" Xiao, Ph.D., are part of the team that discovered that artificial intelligence can be combined with traditional pathology to develop treatment plans for patients suffering from non-small cell lung cancers.

DALLAS – Feb. 08, 2023 – Utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) along with traditional pathology offers promise for swiftly developing treatment plans for patients with non-small cell lung cancers, a team led by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers discovered. 

“We found that combining digitized clinical pathology slides with AI algorithms holds the potential to improve precision treatment of cancer patients,” said Yang Xie, Ph.D., Professor in UTSW’s Peter O'Donnell Jr. School of Public Health and in the Lyda Hill Department of Bioinformatics, and Associate Dean of Data Sciences at UTSW Medical School.

The findings, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, identified lung cancers most likely to respond to one common treatment. They focused on metastatic non-small cell lung cancers from 272 patients with the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene mutation who were enrolled in studies conducted by the Lung Cancer Mutation Consortium (LCMC). The consortium comprises more than 20 U.S. cancer centers that match patients with drugs and clinical trials targeting cancers of the chest area.

Dr. Xie, also founding Director of the Quantitative Biomedical Research Center at UTSW, and Guanghua “Andy” Xiao, Ph.D., Professor of Bioinformatics and in the O’Donnell School of Public Health, are corresponding authors on the study. Drs. Xie and Xiao are members of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Xie said tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) are effective drugs for many patients with tumors that contain EGFR mutations, but some tumors are unresponsive. The researchers’ goal was to find a way to determine tumor characteristics that predict responsiveness to this treatment.

“By studying interactions between tumor cells and cells in the microenvironment that surround tumors, we found an important marker that could predict which metastatic cancers would show resistance to TKIs,” Dr. Xie said. 

The work builds on an AI-based computational algorithm previously developed by the study’s first author, Shidan Wang, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the O’Donnell School of Public Health. 

The team’s integrated analysis identified potential mechanisms of resistance to EGFR-targeted therapy, suggesting potential alternative treatments for TKI-resistant tumors and a direction for future studies. 

Other UTSW researchers who contributed to the study include Ruichen Rong, Donghan M. Yang, Justin A. Bishop, Shirley Yan, Ling Cai, and John Minna. 

Dr. Bishop holds the Jane B. and Edwin P. Jenevein, M.D. Distinguished Chair in Pathology. Dr. Minna holds the Max L. Thomas Distinguished Chair in Molecular Pulmonary Oncology and the Sarah M. and Charles E. Seay Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research. Dr. Xiao holds the Mary Dees McDermott Hicks Chair in Medical Science. Dr. Xie holds the Raymond D. and Patsy R. Nasher Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research, in Honor of Eugene P. Frenkel, M.D.

The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute Cancer Center (R35GM136375, U01AI156189, R01GM140012, R01GM141519, R01DE030656, U01CA249245, P50CA70907, P30CA142543, P30CA008748, and P01CA129243) and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (RP190107 and RP180805). 

More information on this research, including the full list of authors and financial disclosures, can be found in the study.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the nation’s premier academic medical centers, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 24 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The full-time faculty of more than 2,900 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in more than 80 specialties to more than 100,000 hospitalized patients, more than 360,000 emergency room cases, and oversee nearly 4 million outpatient visits a year.